The Last Airbender would have been a disappointment even if it was Great

No, I haven’t seen the movie. No, I won’t see it. (Well, I will, but not until I’m in NYC on “movie mocking” night.)

Anyway, my point, briefly, so I don’t spend all day at the group gathering explaining it and reexplaining this point to people.

In a Google Buzz conversation, I said:

Frankly, the original iteration of the story always felt like ‘enough’ to me — even when I first heard about the movie, before all the racial hullabaloo and drama, my first thought was “what will this really add?”

I mean, with Lord of the Rings, a movie presented a whole new visual medium that had never been explored (okay, yeah, Bakshi, but it was (a) not great and (b) not finished); I could see the POINT, and Jackson delivered on that point — excellent visuals of stuff I’d only ever seen on the page and in my head up to that point.

We’ve SEEN a visual representation of the Avatar story already — it’s probably in my top ten TV shows all-time, and easily in my top five animated shows — and more to the point we’ve seen it in far more depth and detail and with more nuance than any movie series could ever manage, even a great one.

I guess I just never saw the point. The fact that that the final product sucks perhaps bothers me less, since I was never that excited about it to begin with.

Here’s the thing: this movie was doomed to disappoint. Didn’t matter who was in it, who directed, or anything. Doomed.

Why? Because the show was Great. Sometimes it was even Fantastic and, in my memory, it’s damn near perfect.

At it’s VERY BEST, a movie adaptation of the show could only be a Great movie, right? It’s not going to add anything: you won’t finally be able to see what Appa looks like, or finally see how cool the Fire Nation tanks are, or finally watch cool earth bending — you’ve always been able to see all that. To hear the words spoken by good actors. To et cetera et cetera.

Put another way, the very best a movie adaptation of the show could manage is to not make anything worse.

It won’t add anything. It’s like painting a copy of Starry Night — your ultimate goal in that endeavor — your overarching thought is: try not to fuck anything up.

Say you make a Buffy movie. Just pretend. Then you get enough interest in the movie to make a TV show. You don’t retell the movie again. You go to the sophomore year in a new school. You move on. If you ever do a movie after the show is done, you do something after the end of the show, you don’t make a “Season One, the Movie” movie. I mean… just look at that idea: it’s clearly stupid.

If your space western gets canceled, but you have enough fan support to make a movie with the same cast and setting, you tell the next thing.

If you make a show called LOST, you… well, you don’t make a movie after you’re done with the show, because the story is done, and the only thing you could do with a movie is go back and retell it again, and hope you don’t fuck anything up.

I’m not saying anything particularly insightful here, am I? This is obvious, or at least it feels obvious to me: if the best you can hope for with a ‘new’ creative offering (in essentially the same medium (visual)) is to maintain the status quo with regards to that creative property, you are working on the wrong thing.

No matter how much money it might make.

One Reply to “The Last Airbender would have been a disappointment even if it was Great”

  1. This is one of the best reviews I’ve read, especially with never having seen the movie. (I haven’t seen it either.)

    Now, excuse me, I’m going to go work on my Starry Night screenplay…

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